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Dennis Rodman: From Basketball Bad Boy to Dubious Diplomat

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Rodman perfected the craft of rebounding. Lighter and several inches shorter than most men working the boards, he didn't use brute force to pile on the numbers. "What people don't remember about Dennis is how smart he was," says best friend Floyd Raglin, who manages a Miami Beach sports marketing firm. "He could hear the ping off the rim and know exactly where that ball was gonna drop."

One night soon after, however, Rodman's depression caught up with him. On an April night in 1993, he parked his pickup truck at the Palace of Auburn Hills, where the Pistons played. He cradled a rifle for hours, he writes in Bad as I Wanna Be, contemplating whether to pull the trigger. In a sense, he did. When Rodman emerged in the early morning, he says, he'd murdered his shyness.

Though perhaps apocryphal, the tale explains a dramatic metamorphosis. His marriage to Annie had collapsed — "cheating," she says — and Rodman demanded a trade, landing with the San Antonio Spurs, where his hair took on the hues of snow cones. He went on to play with the Chicago Bulls, winning three championships with Michael Jordan. In the Windy City, Rodman was all braggadocio: a fixture at late-night parties studded with stars. He dated Madonna for two months and married Baywatch star Carmen Electra for six. He pierced his face. He became someone else entirely.

Some friends and relatives say this transformation represents the tragedy of Dennis Rodman. They loved his gentleness. "[He was] innocent, shy, cute," says Annie Rodman, today a corrections officer living outside Sacramento. "Deep down [what he has become] isn't him, but fame is the devil to him. He's been swallowed up by it."

Something else also swallowed Rodman. "It's like The Nutty Professor," says Gigi Peterson, a raven-haired beauty and Rodman's longtime girlfriend. "Professor Klump was an introvert and felt unworthy. Then he invented this potion to make him thin, and Buddy Love came to town. For Dennis, alcohol is that potion. And Buddy Love can go to hell. Because one day soon, Buddy Love will kill Professor Klump."

The year before Dennis Rodman agreed to go to North Korea, he spent afternoons presiding over a half-empty Cheetah Gentlemen's Club off Hallandale Beach Boulevard. There, he'd wedge a Romeo y Julieta between his long fingers, tilt back a tumbler of vodka or Jägermeister, and deploy one of three often-used phrases to whomever came within orbit. "Do one thing." "Love is good." "Do your job."

A typical Rodman binge lasts three manic days, says Trishy Trish, who says she spends almost every night with him. (It's unclear when Rodman has time to squeeze in Peterson and other paramours.) The two met in 2011. "We had sex the first night," she says. Ever since, their antics have become routine: With Trishy Trish in tow, Rodman goes to Grand Lux Café outside Aventura Mall, where he sits in sunglasses dark as the abyss and heckles patrons. Or they're off to Ocean Manor on Galt Ocean Drive in Fort Lauderdale before settling once more at Cheetah. Afterward, in the morning light, Rodman perches outside a Starbucks at 191st Street and Biscayne Boulevard and lights a fresh stogie. "He comes early," a pretty Starbucks barista says. "And he's usually drunk."

"We go to, like, five places and that's it," explains Trishy Trish, wearing a jean skirt and tank top on a recent afternoon of vodka sodas and Camel menthols at O'Malley's Ocean Pub on Hollywood Beach. "We like to stay local."

After a night of partying, Rodman hits the gym for "detox," she says. He almost exclusively attends Equinox, a workout facility on the third floor of Aventura Mall, and does pushups in the sauna for hours. Only then, after he's sweated out all the booze, can Rodman rest at his Aventura condo, Trishy Trish says. "After I make a big old dinner, we sleep for days. The television is always on. He's sober for days. But then he starts looking out the windows and gets cabin fever. And once he's out again, he starts drinking. What else is there really to do?"

This frenzied lifestyle has come at a cost. Rodman's 24-year-old daughter, Alexis, has only recently patched up her relationship with him. She says other children teased her about Rodman's eccentricities when she was young. From age 10 to 19, she didn't speak to him. "I had to grow a thick skin, and I didn't want people to feel bad for me. But I got a lot of negative things growing up."

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Terrence McCoy